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Susan Pinkney

E: research@cafonline.org


There are a number of schemes available for charities but are they likely to be used?

24 April 2020 

In these uncertain times, many charities, just as with other sectors across the UK, continue to struggle. On April 16, we surveyed just over 400 UK charities and asked their awareness of and likelihood to use a number of Government schemes that are available.

We found that while awareness of measures including business rate relief, business interruption loans and sick pay relief was high, the government measure that charities reported they were by far most likely to use was the furloughing of staff wage subsidy programme (35%), followed by business rate relief (18%).

Charities in a Catch-22

Right now, some charities find themselves in a real Catch-22 situation whereby they have never seen such demand for their services and face the hard choice of saving their finances by furloughing staff at a time when they are desperately needed, or retain staff and face serious financial difficulties. Charities are telling us this anecdotally and we are seeing it come through strongly on applications to CAF’s Coronavirus Emergency Fund.

When we asked charities if they would stand a better chance of surviving the crisis if furloughed employees were allowed to continue working for the charity as volunteers, almost a quarter (24%) said it would.

The government reponse

The survey we conducted was just days after the Government also announced a £750 million assistance package for charities. Although the majority of charities were aware of this support package, a relatively low 14% thought it applied to their charity or that they would be able to use it. This may well reflect the early timing, as details of how charities can access the support were only just emerging.

There are, however,  other ways  in which hundreds of millions of pounds could still be unleashed to help charities and my Policy colleagues wrote this great paper which recommends a number of measures to unlock charitable assets, harness unclaimed Gift Aid and stimulate new giving to vital causes hit by Covid-19.

Their proposals include:

  • Temporarily remove the need for people to make a Gift Aid declaration in order for the charities to receive the 25% additional benefit on every donation. It is estimated that £600m in Gift Aid is currently unclaimed each year.
  • Introduce “living legacies”which allow people to bring forward the kinds of gifts they might make in their will – this could give valuable additional support to charities right now by allowing them to plan ahead and potentially borrow money against future assets.
  • Unlock the assets of the £500m National Fund – a charity set up in the 1920s to repay the national debt whose assets have been locked away for nearly 100 years.
  • Ease efforts to release millions in unused cash from dormant charities.
  • Create a coronavirus big philanthropy pledge to encourage donations from wealthy individuals and businesses.

Some of these ideas have had a warm initial reception from colleagues across the charity world and our team is digging deeper into any roadblocks and how they might best be overcome, and are also looking to explore new ideas coming from others both in the UK and elsewhere. Our Global Alliance network of partner charities are also in close touch, sharing details of emerging plans from their respective countries and feeding into the wider thinking on how charities can survive this tragedy.

From the Research side, we continue to poll charities and the general public to keep up-to-date on sentiment and hopefully inform these discussions in the days, weeks and months ahead as the new normal takes hold.

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